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Phantasy Piano Quartet in F sharp minor

completed in June 1910; first performed by the Henkel Piano Quartet in 1911; commissioned by Walter Wilson Cobbett

Bridge’s Phantasy Piano Quartet in F sharp minor built on his success in the first two of Walter Wilson Cobbett’s Phantasie competitions, promoted under the auspices of The Worshipful Company of Musicians. These competitions were a major stepping stone to his wider recognition as a composer. The archaic spelling reflected Cobbett’s intention of establishing a new British chamber music genre, combining the ingredients of a standard chamber work into a single span, that would pay homage to the Fantasies and Fancies for viols that flourished in Elizabethan and Jacobean England. In 1905 Bridge was runner-up in the first competition, with a Phantasie for string quartet, and he won the second in 1907, with his Phantasie in C minor for piano trio. A few years later, in 1910, Bridge was one of a group of eleven British composers Cobbett commissioned to write a chamber music Phantasy: among them, Vaughan Williams contributed a Phantasy Quintet for strings, and Bridge the Phantasy Piano Quartet.

From his earliest student efforts, Bridge had employed cyclic forms in his chamber music, ensuring that his main themes and melodies enjoyed a close family likeness across each movement. In his Cobbett Phantasies he went a step further, refining an ‘arch form’ in which all the musical ideas derived from a single source. In this way he was able to replace the conventional development section of the classical sonata form, in which he had been trained under Stanford, with contrasting but related episodes—mirroring the slow movement and scherzo elements one would find in a larger multi-movement chamber work. This Cobbett-inspired approach to constructing single movements and complete works stayed with Bridge throughout his career, reaching its most expansive form in the cello concerto Oration.

While the three early Phantasies are uncomplicated in their design, the Phantasy Piano Quartet, completed in June 1910, is the most effective, revealing Bridge’s early style at its most fluent. Writing in the 1948 Aldeburgh Festival programme book, Benjamin Britten revealed the essence of this work perfectly: ‘Sonorous yet lucid, with clear, clean lines, grateful to listen to and to play. It is the music of a practical musician, brought up in German orthodoxy, but who loved French romanticism and conception of sound—Brahms happily tempered with Fauré.’ All the musical ideas spring from the passionate opening flourish. The first section (Andante con moto) flows with Gallic grace, rather like a Barcarolle. There follows a fleet-footed scherzo (Allegro vivace), with a contrasting song-like trio section that looks back to the opening ideas. A short recitative-like passage then leads seamlessly back to the reprise, which opens out into an impassioned climax before dying away to what Britten describes as ‘a short coda which suggests the deep red afterglow of a sunset’.

from notes by Paul Hindmarsh © 2013


Bridge: Piano Trios & Phantasy Quartet
Bridge: Phantasy Piano Quartet & Sonatas
Studio Master: CDA68003Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


Complete: Andante con moto – Allegro vivace – Andante con moto
Movement 1: Andante con moto
Movement 2: Allegro vivace
Movement 3: Andante con moto

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